At least one study suggests that binge-watching is bad for our health, but there’s no denying that it has become a common habit. Not only can our couches and our Netflix queues attest to this, so can the fact that even major TV networks have decided to test out the all-at-once model. NBC, for example, will release the complete first season of new series Aquarius this month. Giving fans immediate — at least as “immediate” as watching entire season of a TV show can be — gratification has proven worth the experiment, but the release format also has its drawbacks.
In an article examining the case against the all-at-once model, Jenji Kohan, creator of Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, told THR that she misses “having people on the same page.” Gone are the days where she can go online after an episode airs and see fans’ collective reaction.
HBO CEO Richard Plepler has also lamented the change in viewing habits, saying in April that “there’s something very powerful about having a conversation in the culture occurring for 10 weeks, 12 weeks, 13 weeks.”
Their concerns make sense. We’re all familiar with how viewers are often subjected to cliffhangers in the traditional episode-per-week model, and as torturous as they can be, they certainly inspire conversation and anticipation. When we binge, we don’t have to stew over what will happen next; we can just let the next episode auto-play. Given that shows differ, they may lend themselves better to different models.
With TV streaming offered by Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and more, as well as TV networks getting in the game, the ideal release format is still up in the air. The success of streaming services, especially Netflix and its growing user base, certainly keeps the all-at-once format in the mix, but alternative options, including releasing episodes in batches, may prove better at sustaining fan buzz around a show.